Science Fiction Round 63: No Man’s Sky
Unlike many of the other reviewers of No Man’s Sky, I wasn’t terribly disappointed.
I was basically expecting a lovely sandbox not unlike ARK: Survival Evolved mixed up with the Spore space stage, both of which I enjoyed. So I’m pretty happy with the results… likely due to not having overly high expectations.
But, of course, there are some things that could be improved…
Why Can’t I Fly Into The Sun?
I wanted to get a special death screen for this.
You can zoom around the different planets, sure. And they rotate, which is good for some pleasant night-day cycling (and associated weather consequences). But the star in each solar system appears to be painted onto the background, even after you get into space. You can fly as far and fast as you like, but you will never reach it. And the planets… don’t seem to actually move around much, and they’re always only on one side of the sun.
I’m disappointed. I don’t even need you to solve the N-Body problem; just put the planets on some pre-programmed circular orbits, with no complicated dynamics, and I’d be totally happy. I’m especially sad about this because they talked about tweaking the physics to allow the planets and moons to be closer to each other in the sky without getting destroyed by being inside the Roche limit or have other issues.
I also wish I could actually crash my spaceship into the ground, but it looks like somebody built in some automatic collision-avoidance software.
Pieces of History
One of the parts I do enjoy is the language-learning system. You don’t actually start with a Universal Translator, and the aliens don’t speak English. You pick up words, one at a time, either from getting some help from the aliens themselves, or from the various ancient monoliths scattered across the landscape.
The bigger monoliths are even more interesting: they tell you a small piece of a story about the histories of the aliens. Sometimes you can miss bits if you don’t know the language, other times the monolith just uses its sufficiently advance technology to impart the knowledge into your brain. I love this.
… But Where Did The Monoliths Come From?
I am confused.
Where did all the ancient monoliths come from? Were these planets actually once inhabited by the Gek, Korvax, and Vy’keen long ago? The Gek, especially, differ from how their history describes them. Besides, if there were an industrial civilization that could support them, I would have expected the ruins to be old, rusting skyscrapers, not stone buildings containing grecian urns. Or were these ancient markers placed by someone else?
And do these things have anything to do with the all-pervasive Sentinels? (Aside from the animosity that the aliens have towards them, that is.) Where did they come from? Are they self-replicating machines run amok? Or something else?
That being said, I’ve gotten so distracted by wandering around random planets and doing safari hunts for scans of new animals that I haven’t checked out the center of the galaxy yet, where supposedly there are some answers. So, maybe there’s an explanation I haven’t found yet… but it’d have to be a really, really good one.
That’s roughly how I would summarize the game. There’s lots of repetition, all the danger can be anticipated (and you usually bring it upon yourself), and the music is… well, both pretty and appropriate.
It’s a game where you have to bring in some purpose yourself in order to enjoy it. The built-in narrative is thin at best; you have to make your own story.